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Old Feb 21, 2009, 03:54 PM   #1
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Join Date: Feb 2009
Question about Legal Issues referencing celebrities/famous movies, etc.

I am wondering if anyone knows the legality of referencing celebrities,
famous movies or other bits of pop culture within an application or perhaps
basing an entire application around it.

There is the "Star Wars Soundboard" for example which I believe states that
it has permission from Lucasfilm. There is also an Arnold Shwarzenegger app
that I am not sure has permission or not.

Would it be allowed to play a snippet of a famous theme or reference items
from pop culture as images or is this inviting legal trouble
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Old Feb 21, 2009, 06:25 PM   #2
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Bad idea, you can get into legal difficulties if you use copyrighted material. Always seek permission first.
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Old Feb 25, 2009, 12:41 PM   #3
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Well in Germany I know you can use names no problem but in the US it's different and can not do so. There was a boardgame Hollywood Blockbuster and they had to use parody names for the US version. As far as trivia games I think you can use them as long as their not characters in your game or what not. Just part of a trivia question is totally legit I believe. Ohter games you might want to look at is Cineplexity and Time's Up!.
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Old Feb 25, 2009, 04:33 PM   #4
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Location: Seattle, WA
Perfect example (for you video game geeks)...

In Japan, the game Street Fighter 2 has a character who is a boxer. His name is M. Bison. When the game came to the USA, they had to change the names around of the characters and the boxer was called Balrog.

The reason for the change was because the company who made the game (Capcom) was afraid of getting sued by Mike Tyson because M. Bison was too similar to the real-life person.

In the USA they have VERY strict laws on this, but in other countries it is relaxed. I would stay away from using celebrities without permission.

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Old Feb 26, 2009, 01:31 AM   #5
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You will probably need to consult a lawyer with experience in media rights clearance and/or entertainment industry negotiations. The rights to play "a famous theme" in public can often cost some serious money.

but ianal.
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Old Feb 26, 2009, 01:39 PM   #6
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I think the first basic rule of thumb that you (and anyone else thinking of incorporating media assets into their apps) should follow is this: if YOU didn't create the asset (image, audio clip, video clip, etc.), then you're likely to be infringing on someone else's copyright on that asset.

Let's say you're writing a trivia game, and the question is "This heavyweight boxer bit a chunk from Evander Hollyfield's ear during a match in 1997", and you list 4 heavyweight boxers as answers (including Mike Tyson, of course), you're probably well within outside of anyone's legal reach (assuming you haven't plagiarized the text of the question!). This assumes that all you're showing is the text of the question and the answers.

If, however, you also show an image of Mike Tyson that you found on the internet somewhere, you're probably violating a copyright. Even if you use a photograph that you just happened to take yourself, I'm not sure if that puts you in the clear, as Mike Tyson may have image and likeness rights.

There are obvious exceptions to rule #1 above, such as using assets to which you've been granted a license to distribute in your application, and assets that you're certain are in the public domain.

But, IANAL, and if you have serious concerns you should seek professional advice.
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